by Eddy Rawlinson
FORMER NATIONAL PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER EDDY RAWLINSON SHARES HIS THOUGHTS AND IMAGES OF LIFE IN HIS FAVOURITE PLACE OF TOWNELEY PARK.
During the early part of the 1900s our parks provided a refuge for workers at weekends when they were released from the chains of industry and able to walk in green spaces and enjoy a park’s peaceful surroundings.
Open spaces took them away from the grim terrace houses in which most workers lived and it must have been heaven being away from hard work and the noise of industrial machinery. In the mid-1800s Britain’s industrialists saw the benefit of green spaces for their workers with many of them having moved from farming to work in mill towns.
Some bosses bought land, had it landscaped, and the word parkland was no longer the name just for a place where the rich went hunting. Mill owners became philanthropists with their gift to the community of open land being made into parks and bearing their names, still with us today. In the late 1800s and at the start of the last century town council’s also bought up space for leisure development and people’s parks came into being.
“OUR PARKS ARE NO LONGER JUST A GET AWAY FROM INDUSTRIAL SURROUNDINGS”
My own local Towneley Park with its famous hall was bought by Burnley Council in 1902 from the Towneley family. My early memories of Towneley are from the 1930/40s when ‘keep off the grass’ was an order to be obeyed. Manicured carpets of green grass were places where no visitor could tread and numerous heavy metal signs passed on that ‘keep off’ warning. Uniformed park keepers with the wave of a stick would shout: “Ger off that grass” and offenders respectfully obeyed. Restrictions included kicking a ball on a park pitch was only allowed by organised football teams on a Saturday afternoon. In all areas of the park all dogs, there were more mongrels than thoroughbreds, had to be on a permanent lead.
With people not having motor cars and unable to travel far, their nearest park became territorial and their home ground. On a Sunday, with no entertainment other than listening to the gospel in the morning and Sunday school in the afternoon, the young ones after religious teachings would head for their local park. It was a place where boys met girls from which many a marriage followed. War interrupted many of those park romances when those boys and girls were called up to serve their country.
In my local Towneley Park grassed areas, once ‘no-go’ areas, are where visitors now walk freely with children able to run and play on this once hallowed ground. Today our parks are no longer just a get away from industrial surroundings and park keepers shouting: “stop running” if a group of young ones broke into a gallop. Every Saturday morning at Towneley hundreds of women, men and youngsters set off early on an organised 5k park run then jump into their cars and go home. Like other parks Towneley has kept up with the times.
NorthernLife May/June 2022